* Syria says responded positively to Annan proposals
* U.N. Council resolution talks hinge on Annan briefing
* No signs of UN deadlock over Syria being broken
(Adds diplomats, details, background)
By Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, March 14 The U.N.-Arab
League envoy on the Syrian crisis, Kofi Annan, will brief the
U.N. Security Council on Friday about his peace mission, which
diplomats say could breathe new life into stalled talks on a
resolution aimed at ending the escalating violence.
Council diplomats say Annan's assessment of the crisis will
be crucial to a bid by the United States and its European allies
to pass a resolution that would also ensure humanitarian aid
workers have access to besieged towns across the country. Russia
and China have twice vetoed resolutions condemning Syria.
Talks between the five permanent Security Council members
and Morocco on a draft resolution have stalled, but are expected
to pick up again after Annan's briefing, diplomats said.
However, they say it remains unclear if Moscow will accept a
resolution on Syria, where protests against President Bashar
al-Assad began a year ago.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Security
Council during a special debate this week on the Arab Spring
uprisings that Moscow would like the 15-nation body to reach
consensus on a Syria resolution.
Russia, he said, could accept a resolution in line with its
March 10 agreement with the Arab League, which urged an end to
the violence, impartial monitoring, no outside interference,
humanitarian access for all Syrians and support for Annan's push
for talks between the government and the opposition.
A senior Western diplomat, speaking on condition of
anonymity, said all those points were already covered in the
U.S.-drafted resolution the five permanent members and Morocco
have been discussing.
The main sticking points, he said, were Russia's insistence
that the government and opposition stop fighting simultaneously
and Moscow's push to assign equal blame to both sides. The
United States, Gulf Arabs and Europeans say Assad's
much-stronger and better-armed forces must stop fighting first.
"We are not going to accept a resolution that creates an
equivalence between the regime and opposition," the diplomat
A less contentious, but still difficult issue is how to
refer in the resolution to an Arab League plan that urges Assad
to step aside, envoys said. Russia opposes clear endorsement of
the plan, though Western diplomats said they could probably find
an acceptable compromise Moscow and China could live with.
However, council envoys say there are no signs that
permanent council members are close to breaking their deadlock.
Negotiations on the resolution will likely remain on hold until
after Annan's briefing on Friday, diplomats said.
Syria said on Wednesday it responded positively to proposals
by Annan for ending the escalating violence that has killed
thousands of civilians. Annan's spokesman had said questions
remained over Syria's response.
The United Nations estimates Syrian security forces have
killed well over 7,500 people. Syria said in December that
"terrorists" had killed more than 2,000 soldiers and police.
Annan, a former United Nations secretary-general, will brief
the U.N. Security Council via video conference. He met Assad in
Damascus over the weekend and outlined proposals including a
halt to fighting, humanitarian access and starting a political
dialogue with the Syrian opposition.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to Assad on
Monday to act within the next few days on peace proposals.
Russia, supported by China, has vigorously opposed action
against Damascus by the 15-nation U.N. Security Council for more
than six months.
The two veto powers have vowed to prevent Washington, Paris
and London from pursuing Libya-style regime change in Syria, a
strong ally of Moscow and home to the Russian navy's only
warm-water port outside the former Soviet Union.
(Editing by Vicki Allen and David Brunnstrom)